By Suzanne Schmidt
When Alexis Bonilla, 11, and Emme Kuskin, 12, learned there were children in the world unable to go to school they decided to start a Pennies for Peace drive.
The change collected at Countryside Montessori in Land O’ Lakes will go to the Pennies for Peace foundation that builds schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan and buys school supplies. One penny can buy a pencil, two pennies can buy an eraser, 15 pennies can buy a notebook and $1 dollar will pay a teacher’s salary for a day.
Sue Grossman, upper level teacher at the school, said it started as a class project, but then Bonilla and Kuskin decided it needed to be a school-wide project. She said she originally chose the project because she liked what the foundation does.
“We saw the Pennies for Peace project and we were inspired,” Grossman said. “Everyone has change that is just sitting at home. We can collect all those pennies and make a difference in the world. I think that there is nothing more noble than children providing education for other children in the world.”
Every classroom in the school now has a collection bottle and the girls have opened it up to include all change, not just pennies. The girls’ goal is to raise $1,000 dollars or 100,000 pennies.
Bonilla of Land O’ Lakes said she was inspired to help because she thinks everyone deserves an education.
“I learned they don’t have education in Afghanistan and Pakistan like they do here,” Bonilla said. “Girls don’t get to go to school and I don’t think that is fair because everyone should be able to have an education. Everyone should be able to go to school.”
Pennies for Peace predominantly helps girls and some boys as well.
“The foundation uses the money to build schools and to provide money for education mainly for girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Grossman said. “The culture does not revere women as much as boys so if anyone is going to go to school, it will be a boy.”
Kuskin of Land O’ Lakes said she likes helping girls get an education.
“I think getting an education is important to make good decisions,” Kuskin said. “By teaching one girl, you can teach a whole town, because she will teach her kids and everyone else in the community.”
Bonilla said she also thinks educating girls is important.
“They can learn to make better decisions in life like they can decide how their life is going to be,” Bonilla said. “If they have an education they can get better jobs and they can do more things.”
The class is also reading “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson, the man who founded and runs the Pennies for Peace foundation. The story is about Mortenson’s attempt to climb Pakistan’s K2 and the promise he made to come back and build a school.
“It is interesting because he talks about building the school because he made that promise,” Kuskin said.
Donations will be accepted at the school, 5852 Ehren Cut-Off Road, between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Countryside Montessori is a charter school for first through sixth-graders with a hands-on Montessori curriculum. For more information, visit www.cmemontessori.com or call (813) 996-0991.
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